So, I'm sitting IMing (can that even be used as a verb??) my buddy PEEJ in Boston tonight and she is accusing me of "allegedly" asking hard questions here on "Cheese"...she was referencing Thursday's post about "How Big Is Your Character?" Apparently this post caused some brain strain for ol' PJ. LOL
And, in the course of a bit of computer laughter and discussing whether or not our MS CAN define us as people, my brain once again began to randomly wander off track a bit (as I'm so prone to do!). Somehow in this IM conversation, I started thinking about the clients I work with, otherwise known as "The Mentally Ill". The rusty cogs in my brain began grinding together as I started comparing how their diagnoses often "define" their characters...I also started thinking about how often in the mental health profession the PROFESSIONALS begin defining a client based on their diagnosis!
This led me to yet another tangent (as so often my mind does)...I started recalling when I used to train new staff in psychiatric hospitals year's ago and one of the training tools I used to provide to make a point. Now, mind you, most "new" staff who are hired in psychiatric hospitals are barely wet behind their ears and fresh out of college (if they've made it that far)...let's face it...the burn out rate and age for inpatient psychiatry is about 25-30 years old. After that age of working in the "bin", you have either figured out what your own problems are that LED you to working in psychiatry or you have become a PATIENT! Or, like some of us, you become referred to as "management". LOL
Anyway, I digress (again, typical)...I used to do a presentation on psychiatric diagnosis and symptoms of diagnoses. Riveting crap, I'm sure...but, to make my initial point, I would bring in two canned food items. One would be a lovely can with a label of fruit cocktail and the other would be the most grotesque label of spinach I could find on the market. I would set these two cans out in front of my unfortunate captive audience and ask them to pick which of the cans they would be willing to eat right now? Oh, yes...I came with spoons and forks too!
There would, no doubt, always be many questions about "why" I was asking this or was this request covered under their new health insurance, etc. But I would only respond with requesting they choose which can was most appealing to them and which they would be willing to eat RIGHT NOW. Inevitably, one poor suckered, over-achiever, too quick to please would volunteer to choose a can and eat it. I would quietly hand them the spoon and fork and the can opener.
Once the lid was successfully removed, the unknowing "specimen"/employee would grimace and look at me with absolute horror (or hatred...it was really hard to interpret) and I (with a smirk) would ask them what was the matter?
This trick worked EVERY time I presented this class...my newfound employee would ALWAYS choose the can with the fruit cocktail label and probably thought they were getting a free snack. What they DIDN'T know is, I had previously switched the labels...the can that was opened was the gross and slimy spinach and the new employee believed they would HAVE to eat the can to save face!
I never made them eat the contents...instead, we would engage in a "table" discussion about labels, how labels are used (i.e., diagnoses), how they are misused, how we prejudge the contents of a person based on their "label", AND how sometimes labels (diagnoses) can be wrong as well as HURTFUL and HARMFUL...or at the very least, NOT Palatable!!!
So what's my friggin' point? (Even I have almost forgotten THAT!) Well...my point is once again, when we define ourselves by our "labels", or dare I say our MS diagnosis, we become what our label says is in our "can". The MS label can be as slimy as grotesque spinach if we let it be...it can also be PREJUDGED by others to be grotesque spinach, when in fact, what's inside of us is lovely fruit cocktail...we have just been "mislabeled" by our friends/family/coworkers, etc.
For me, I am working toward my MS NOT being necessarily what is in my can OR the label I choose to display to the world...I don't want it to define my contents as it has seemingly been doing this past year. I want to know and feel what I have inside is that lovely fruit cocktail, even if my "label" may say something different to the world.
I'd like to be able to surprise that risk-taker who chooses to look inside me for my contents...who chooses to look beyond my label and really get to know what's inside me. My MS is a part of me, but it is NOT my contents.
Now, go treat yourself to a snack or something...I'm finished here...LOL